You will find an introduction and outline to 2 Samuel, here.
A prayer to use before you read from the Book of Common Worship:
God, source of all light, by your Word you give light to the soul. Pour out upon us the spirit of wisdom and understanding that, being taught by you in Holy Scripture, our hearts and minds may be opened to know the things that pertain to life and holiness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
A. David’s Kingdom Established 1:1-8:18
B. 2 Samuel 9:1-20:26 David’s Family and David’s Throne
9:1-13 Mephibosheth, Son of Jonathan: Remember in 1 Samuel 20:14-17,42;23:18;24:21-22 that David and Jonathan enter into a covenant which involves their descendants. Now David fulfills those promises. There are three dialogues in this chapter, v2-4 between David and Ziba, v 5-8 David and Mephibosheth and v 9-11 David and Ziba. Notice the power difference between Ziba and David. How do they speak to each other? What does this tell us about David’s character? Eating at the king’s table is a privilege and gives Mephibosheth status, similar to the status of a royal son. Why do you think the text mentions, more than once, that Mephibosheth was “lame in both feet”? Perhaps this indicates that Mephibosheth is not a significant threat to David?
10:1-12:31 War, Adultery, and Murder
10:1-19 War with the Ammonites and the Arameans: We do not know what the situation was between the Ammonites and David. In 1 Samuel 11 the Ammonites were enemies of Israel. Now they appear, for unknown reasons, to be allies- at least David considers them allies. The Ammonites are suspicious of David’s envoys and humiliate them. Notice David’s compassion for the humiliated men. But now this humiliation of David inevitably results in war. Joab rather than David leads the army. Joab is not typically portrayed as invoking God’s help but he does in this battle. Notice also that Joab does not lay siege to the city or chase the Arameans back to their own land. Why do you think that is so? The Arameans prepare for further conflict and conflict occurs, this time lead by David. The Arameans make peace with Israel. What does this story tell us about David? What does it say about his sense of loyalty and what happens if his is disrespected?
11:1-27 David’s Adultery with Bathsheba: Then next time Israel fights with the Ammonites, David does not go. This is a well known story. How is David portrayed differently in this story than in the previous two chapters? There are four “episodes” in this story of royal power. First is the adultery, then the pregnancy, then the attempt to make the pregnancy appear legitimate, then murder. Recall in 1 Samuel that the people had wanted a king who would lead them in battle and the Samuel warns them that kings take the people’s things and persons for themselves.Notice how this story sets a tale of violence within the larger framework of military violence. Now that has happened. Why do you think David has stayed behind this time? The text does not tell us. Some commentators suggest that Bathsheba is complicit in the adultery, others disagree. What do you think? From the information in the text, are we able to tell? In the story, David is portrayed as the one at fault. Notice how many times the word “send” appears in this chapter. While the NRSV and NIV talk about David sending “messengers to get her” and that “she came to him”, a more literal translation would be “sent messengers and took her” implying something rather more coercive. That Bathsheba is purifying herself serves to point out that the child is David’s. “Uriah” is a name meaning “Yahweh is my light” nevertheless Uriah is identified as a Hittite. We are faced with the question, who David or Uriah is the more honorable one? “Wash your feet” is a euphemism for sex. Do you think Uriah knows what has happened? Could that be part of why he does not go to his home? Or do his actions reflect loyalty to David? We don’t know with certainty. Actions of a king are difficult to hide. Then David plots murder. But others also are killed (verse 17) not just Uriah. In verse 25 the NIV and NRSV soften the text with “Don’t let this upset you” rather than the more literal “do not let this thing be evil in your eyes”. Verse 25 can be translated in a way that is parallels verse 27b. What does this action and response by David tell us about him? David’s honor has publicly been preserved, but verse 27b suggests ultimately this is not at an end.
12:1-15a Nathan Confronts David: The language of sending continues as the Lord now sends Nathan to confront David. Nathan last appeared in chapter 7 where he announces God’s promises to David. Nathan tells a parable to David. The situation in the parable does not exactly mirror the situation but serves to get the main point across. David reacts as most people would. Verse 5 is not a sentence but an expression of David’s anger. Verse 6 is the legal pronouncement. Then in verse 7 Nathan speaks as a prophet. David’s actions will have serious consequences. In verse 13 David confesses his guilt and does not deny or excuse what he has done.
12:15b-25 The Death of the Child of David and Bathsheba: As Nathan predicted, the child dies. This action, the death of David’s child for David’s sin is difficult for us to comprehend. The text assumes that everything, both good and bad, come from God. But the story does not support the idea that every child’s death is a result of punishment. The focus of the story is on David, which might seem odd to us. What about Bathsheba? What about the child? But David is the focal point of the story because of his great importance to Israel. Also it is a comment on the fact that even kings, who have the power of life and death over their subjects, are not in total control. Once the child dies, David should mourn but instead he resumes normal life. The servants (and readers) are perplexed by this action. What do you think about it? David and Bathsheba have another son, Solomon. Nathan names the child “Jedidiah” which means “beloved of the Lord”. This name is not used anywhere other than this verse. Commentators think Jedidiah was a private name and Solomon was a “throne name”.
12:26-31: The Capture of Rabbah: Now the story returns to the war with the Ammonites. Rabbah is the capital city. David remains in Jerusalem. Joab summons David for the final assault on the city so that the city will be associated David’s name rather than Joab’s. Milcom is the idol of Ammon’s god.
Read More About It:
Here are several good sources to aid your reading of 2 Samuel
Anderson, Bernhard W., Katheryn Pfister Darr, Understanding the Old Testament Abridged fourth Edition. (Upper Saddle River,New Jersey: Prentice Hall) 1998.
Birch, Bruce C., “The First and Second Books of Samuel, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 2 Keck, Leander E., ed. (Nashville”Abingdon Press) 1994.
Gunn, David M. “2 Samuel” in HarperCollins Bible Commentary Mays, James L. ed.(San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco) 2000.
McKenzie, Steven L, “2 Samuel” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Aporcryphal/Deuterocanonical Books, Fully Revised 4 th Edition, Michael Cougan, ed. (New York:Oxford University Press) 2010.
Stinespring, William F. and Burke O. Long “2 Samuel” in The New Oxford Annotated Bible with the Apocryphal/Deuterocanonical Books Metzger, Bruce M., Roland E. Murphy, eds.(New York: Oxford University Press) 1994.